Commission has a knack for kicking the can down the road

Published 12:16 pm Friday, April 8, 2022

Carter County Commission’s Building and Grounds Committee will be considering some multimillion dollar projects in the coming months. Two of the biggest projects are the complete renovation of the old jail and the rebuilding of some of the key facilities at the Carter County Landfill, which is quickly running out of space.
Often when commissioners look at a budget, rather than look to our future, they look at the cost and how much of an increase will it cost in taxes.
The old jail issue is a project that has been kicked down the road more than once, and if nothing is done, the landfill will soon fit into that category. Rather than kicking cans down the road, the commission must be pro-active and look at ways to provide for additional road and infrastructure projects, and community improvement projects. Commission must look at ways it can aggressively pursue job opportunities.
At this week’s meeting of the Building and Grounds Committee, commissioners discussed a complete renovation of the old jail, which will cost around $9 million. This would be to bring the facility up to acceptable standards for office space and storage of the county’s historical archives. The archives has been a subject of discussion for several years now.
The old jail has deteriorated since the prisoners were moved to the new jail. Not only has the building detoriated, but the building’s mechanical systems, such as the heating and air conditioning system, must be replaced.
What we often forget is that court is still being held in the building, and the offices of circuit court are housed there as well.
The landfill has been a topic of conversation for some time. It is quickly filling up, and something has got to give. Also, the floor of the landfill’s transfer station is literally wearing out. A new transfer station is estimated to cost around $2.5 million.
There are no easy or cheap fixes to the landfill problem or the renovation of the old jail.
The commission is due some credit, as in recent months, it took aim at the Workforce Development Complex in the Great Lakes building which is being converted into a centralized location for career and technical education for the county’s four high schools. The complex will house a chemistry lab, a cosmetology classroom and a welding classroom, which will give county students a leg up on a career and job when they complete high school. This is a giant step forward for the county.
There are some things we are quick to jump on such as the extension of the Tweetsie Trail from Valley Forge to Hampton. That is good and the commission is to be commended for jumping on the project early.
No one likes new taxes. But our community is facing a growing backlog of serious needs, new jobs, and new challenges.
Sometimes, the basic and most important infrastructure needs are delayed over and over and the price tag gets bigger and bigger to fix them. Why have we allowed the old jail to deteriorate? And, surely we have to realize that the landfill is not perpetual.
Again, no one likes new taxes, but the commission is ignoring one reality — the bill on renovating the old jail and expanding the landfill will eventually come due, and whether they begin paying that bill now or later, it will ultimately be borne by the taxpayers of Carter County.

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